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Project Insight: RecruitNY


Once upon a time, ABC engineered the largest fire service volunteer recruitment event in the state. As many as 600 volunteer fire departments in 59 of New York’s 62 counties participated in RecruitNY, which was essentially a statewide open house over a designated weekend each spring.

It started in 2010, when the Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY) challenged ABC to create an unprecedented statewide recruitment campaign. ABC promptly strategized a grassroots effort we decided to call RecruitNY. To succeed in this totally new initiative, we had to draw the attention of and get the buy-in from as many of the 1,286 volunteer departments across New York as possible.

These departments would need resources to promote the event. It was also something of value we could offer in return for their participation. So, ABC first designed and populated a dedicated website at recruitny.org, where departments could download everything they would need to promote their open house: customizable posters and yard signs, tip sheets, checklists, press releases, banner ads for department websites and social media imagery that could be downloaded. All the efforts during this four-month campaign would drive there, where the public could also get a listing of all the departments participating via the database we developed for the project.

We started a buzz from the bottom up using the existing communications we handled for FASNY, including The Volunteer Firefighter magazine (50,000 subscribers), monthly e-communications (16,000 recipients) and social media (36,000 followers) to give this grassroots movement some momentum. Paid social media was targeted toward department organizers. We also tapped FASNY’s list of department contacts for an email and direct mail campaign, giving us a direct connection to potential organizers.

In the simplest term, this was a promotional blitz where we used any and every tool available to us. It took a strong collaborative effort to get the word out about the campaign, including facilitating partnerships with fire service organizations such as the Association of Fire Districts of the State of New York, New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, Volunteer Fire Police Association of the State of New York, County Fire Coordinators’ Association and several legislators who helped us spread the word and encourage participation from around the state.

It worked. From just the first year to the second, department participation tripled. By the fifth year of the event, we were attracting about half of all departments across the state to open their doors to their communities. We kept them all engaged, encouraging departments to share photos from their events to be used in social, print and e-communications as well as sending out surveys for feedback after the event. In later years, we amplified efforts by sending every department in the state recruitment tool kits filled with brochures, signage and other collateral to help convince potential recruits.

Obviously, we also needed to generate awareness in mostly small communities about the event so that people would attend. In collaboration with FASNY’s PR firm, ABC assisted in setting up press conferences and generating leads for a promotional blitz that earned upward of 275 news pieces across TV, radio, print and online media each year. At one time, ABC coordinated partnerships with several retailers like Dunkin Donuts and Price Chopper to display RecruitNY collateral in their businesses.

We’re proud to have built the RecruitNY initiative that still occurs at the end of each April and has added tens of thousands to volunteer fire department ranks over the years.

About The Author

A journalist by trade, Shane tells stories that connect brands with target audiences and inspire them to act. He’s a writer, not a copy machine, and that approach brings exceptional content to every print or digital piece he pens.

Shane taps into his past as a reporter and editor to develop clear messages that resonate in every medium, be it blog or brochure, sponsored content or script.

Daily newspapers developed a habit for idea generation, attention to detail and knack for question-asking. His background as a magazine and web editor keeps client communications grammatically sound and effective.

Shane’s word-based deliverables range from long-form features to concise digital copy to persuasive prose. He’s been on both sides of the PR pitch and puts some muscle behind ABC’s media relations.